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The Girl in the Film (Vitagraph)

January 20, 2011

Today’s movie is a tale of a modern romantic tryst called The Girl in the Film.

While “the film” here refers to still, photographic film, I don’t think its much of a stretch to say that this way a movie that was thinking about the film medium (moving and still) in a somewhat reflective way.

Synopsis published in The Moving Picture World 8, no. 4 (28 January 1911): 202.

Charlie, who is a camera fiend, goes out to the park to take a few snapshots for his collection of photograph. He scouts around and gets some “dandies.” Tired out, he sits down on a bench in the warm sunlight and falls asleep. In this position he is seen by a couple of young ladles, “Nan” and her friend. The friend induces Nan to have her picture taken: softly they tip-toe up to the bench and remove the camera. Nan strikes a pose. Her friend snaps the shutter and that is how she got in the film. The girls put the camera back on the bench and steal away. Charlie wakes up, takes a few more photographs and starts to the developing shop to have the film developed. In the course at a day or two he goes for the films and is very much surprised to see the strange face and figure of a young girl on one of his films. At first he will not believe it belongs to him, but the photographer assures him that it does. He is attracted and charmed by the girl’s face and determines upon finding the original at all costs. He walks the thoroughfare and looks into the face of every passing female unto he at last sees her with his chum, begs an introduction and secures an invitation to visit her home. He accepts and the longer he stays at her home the better acquainted they become. He lingers and the longer he lingers the more he hates to leave. Eleven o’clock comes and. He goes as far s the front door where he delays his going until 4 a.m. and it is doubtful that he would have gone then if Ma and the policeman had not put in their appearance and started him on his way. The next morning. What a difference. Nan is in bed until 10 o’clock and poor Charlie has to get to work at 8 o’clock. Both are tired and sleepy; he gets very little sympathy from his fellow workers, who have evidently gotten wise to the girl in the film.

This strikes me as a very modern story because the narrative hinges on the existence of modern technology (photography), modern leisure practices (young women strolling in the park without chaperons, boldly interacting with young men), and the more permissive ideas about how courtship might occur (Nan entertains a man in her home until 4 am!).

Sadly, since no print of this film likely exists 100 years after its release, we can’t watch it ourselves to determine what the person who wrote the synopsis meant when he indicated that Charlie’s fellow workers “have evidently gotten wise to the girl in the film” (does Nan do that all the time? Or is this supposed to be a metaphor about loose women?)

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